Court Docs: Marshfield Police Chief Groped Employee, Who Feared Retaliation If She Came Forward

Chief Rick Gramza Has Been Subject Of 2 Criminal Investigations In 2020

Rick Gramza
Rick Gramza. Photo courtesy of Marshfield Police Department

The Marshfield police chief is charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a female police officer in the department, according to a criminal complaint released Friday following a monthslong investigation.

According to the criminal complaint, Chief Rick Gramza assaulted the woman at the department for years, beginning when he was a police lieutenant and her direct supervisor and continuing when he was chief of police. He became chief in 2014.

The victim described unwanted groping, kissing and other touching. She told investigators that she filed a sexual harassment claim against Gramza but that the claim “‘did not go well’ with human resources and the allegations of sexual harassment never proceeded.”

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She also described other instances of assaults, and said she was afraid to speak out and certain she would lose her job if she did. The investigation also includes an interview with a witness the victim confided in at least three years ago about the ongoing assaults. The victim told the witness that she feared retaliation if she did not go along with Gramza, or if she told anyone else.

According to the criminal complaint, Gramza admitted to investigators that he had had a sexual relationship with the victim — which he said began in 2012 or 2013 — but said it was consensual. He denied threatening to retaliate against her.

In a December 2015 incident described in the complaint, the victim said she had applied for a promotion and did not get it. Speaking to her in his office, Gramza grabbed her vagina over her clothing and said, “This isn’t ever going to help you get a job.”

Gramza also denied ever saying that comment.

The criminal complaint describes the victim as emotional throughout the investigator’s interview, and said that “at one point (she) thought she would become physically sick.”

Gramza has been on leave since early August. On Friday, City Administrator Steve Barg wrote in a news release that an investigation by the Eau Claire Police Department concluded Gramza committed felony crimes, and charges had been issued by the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.

Gramza is charged with three counts of felony misconduct in office, one count of fourth-degree sexual assault, and one count of disorderly conduct. His initial appearance in court is scheduled for Dec. 21.

“While this news is disheartening, unsettling and disappointing, our law enforcement officers remain committed to providing our community with services performed at the highest standards demanded by our community,” Barg said.

The assistant police chief, Pat Zeps, has been serving as chief during Gramza’s leave, and will continue in that role.

Barg declined to comment beyond the details in the statement. WPR could not reach Gramza for comment.

The charges come at the end of Gramza’s second leave in 2020 and the second investigation into potential abuse of his office. In July, the city announced a criminal investigation by an outside agency found Gramza was not guilty of criminal misconduct in allegations from a decade earlier, according to the Marshfield News-Herald.

Then, in August, he drew criticism after he appeared in a risqué social media video, since removed, that showed him pulling up in a police car to a group of young women dancing in bikini tops and taking out handcuffs.

On Thursday, the city’s Fire and Police Commission had voted to issue a directive to Gramza urging him to “truthfully and completely answer any questions posed to him” by investigators.

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